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Founding president helps celebrate 40 years of Aglow in Monroeville

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Magdalena Diffendal leads the recent gathering of Aglow in prayer and praise. Monroeville Aglow welcomed its first President, Evelyn Steele, as special guest speaker at the group's 40th anniversary celebration on May 2.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Mary Mohan introduces Evelyn Steele, Monroeville Aglow's first president, as special guest speaker at the 40th anniversary celebration of the group on May 2.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Members of Monroeville Aglow welcomes its first president, Evelyn Steele, as special guest speaker at the group 40th anniversary celebration on May 2.

Evelyn Steele has helped start chapters of the Aglow Christian organization all around the world, but the one closest to her heart might be the one closest to home.

“You can form lifetime friends in Aglow,” she said. “You can become closer to the Lord when you hear other women's testimony about how they have grown in their walk with God.”

The founder and former head of the Monroeville chapter of Aglow, a non-denominational women's group that meets once a month for prayers and fellowship, helped to celebrate its 40th anniversary earlier this month at the Golden Corral on William Penn Parkway.

“It was wonderful. Lots of old-timers were there and people from different parts of the state came,” Steele said. “We had a lot of reminiscing, and it was very rewarding.”

As the event's guest speaker, Steele shared stories of the group's vibrant history.

That history began in 1972, when she was approached by a woman while at a Presbyterian Theological Seminary service. The woman told Steele that God wanted her to receive information about Aglow.

Steele liked what she saw. She invited several others to join her efforts to organize a chapter of the non-denominational group for women.

The first meeting drew 300 women to the Holiday House, a Monroeville landmark that since has been demolished.

The group grew and thrived, and led to the creation of new chapters throughout the state, according to Mary Mohan, a member of the Monroeville group.

“They would just have an unbelievable amount of women — 900 — and they would come from all over the state,” she said.

“They all broke off from us and started their own chapters in their own towns.”

The Monroeville Aglow supported the efforts of fledging Aglow groups, helping with the costs of bringing in speakers and writing training manuals.

About 15 groups were formed from the one Steele founded, in locations elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in West Virginia and Ohio.

As president of the Monroeville group for 36 years, Steele has watched her own group and the organization as a whole grow. Aglow, which started in Seattle in the late 1960s, has flourished and now includes 4,600 groups in about 170 nations.

The group, which once was exclusive to women, now includes chapters for men and groups that are open to both genders.

Steele's own efforts extended far beyond the state. She has served on Aglow's international board and helped start the first groups in South America and Guyana.

The founding of the former group was striking, she noted, considering that it took place in 1980, not long after cult leader Jim Jones, who had started a commune in Guyana, led followers to mass suicide.

“That was something because it was right after that horrible massacre,” she said. “In the midst of all that, the Lord raised up an Aglow there.”

Aglow meets at 11 a.m. the first Thursday of each month at the Golden Corral on William Penn Highway, Monroeville.

For more information, call 412-351-0151 or email MaryEMohan@msn.com.

Julie A. Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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